The Speed Queen: Hannah McFadden

Born with a bone deformity in her left leg, Hannah McFadden is an above-the-knee amputee, but that hasn’t stopped her from swimming, scuba diving, skiing, and becoming a two-time Paralympian. McFadden, who was adopted as a baby in Albania and grew up in America, was raised to believe that anything is possible. She embraced sports of all kinds as a kid in suburban Maryland, until she found her true love in wheelchair racing, eventually competing in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. 

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“I just always imagined myself being announced for the Olympic team. before I go to sleep, that’s like almost all I can think about. I just like going fast, she told USA Today, describing the adrenaline rush on the track. Just all of a sudden your body takes over, and I like that out-of-body experience.”

She made history that year by competing in the Games along with her older sister, Tatyana McFadden, a five-time Paralympian who is paralyzed from the waist down from spina bifida and was adopted from a Russian orphanage. The event marked the first time siblings had competed together at the Paralympics.

The Swimming Sensation: Luca Urlando

Luca Urlando has quite the sporting family history. His grandfather was an Olympic hammer thrower in Italy. His grandmother was a javelin thrower on the Italian national team. His father was an Italian national champion discus thrower. And his mother was a standout American high school swimmer. 

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Now Urlando is carrying on the family tradition as a top athlete himself, hoping to represent Team USA as a swimmer at his first Olympic Games next summer in Tokyo.

How did swimming win out over the group sports? “I always liked how with swimming, your kind of got what you put into it,” he told Team USA. He then went on to make a global splash in the 200-meter butterfly.

Thanks to his family history, Urlando, who is now 18, has dual citizenship — he has both an American and an Italian passport. The Italian Swimming Federation was very interested in that fact, encouraging him to compete for Italy, according to Team USA, but he politely declined.

The Tough Competitor: Suni Lee

Gymnast Suni Lee is the picture of fortitude. Last year, a day before she left her Minnesota home for the national championships in Missouri, her family suffered an unthinkable blow. Her father fell off a ladder while trimming a tree branch and sustained a spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

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The 17-year-old is honest about her fears for the coming year, saying, “I worry that I’m going to randomly catch the coronavirus and bring it home and not even know that I have it, and then my dad catches it. He’s vulnerable right now, so obviously that would be horrible. I worry that nothing is ever going to go back to normal and the Olympics next year will be canceled. But there’s nothing I can do about any of this so, I guess I will just hope for the best and believe that if I can put in the hard work, good things will happen.”

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